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Originally published Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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'The Glass Butterfly': a therapist in peril from a deadly patient

Seattle-area author Louise Marley's new novel "The Glass Butterfly" is a suspenseful tale of a therapist, on the run from a very dangerous patient, who tries to build a new life on the Oregon coast.

Special to The Seattle Times

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'The Glass Butterfly'

by Louise Marley

Kensington, 356 pp., $15

Seattle-based opera singer/novelist Louise Marley knits together two related plot lines — a contemporary story about a therapist in deadly peril from a patient, and a domestic drama in the life of opera composer Giacomo Puccini — into a gripping novel about obsession and its consequences.

Vermont therapist Victoria (Tory) Lake tries to protect her callow college-student son from the fallout of a dangerous case by faking her own death and arranging her disappearance via a cross-country journey, with only the clothes on her back and a wad of cash. The details of this journey, which starts with a harrowing escape on foot and then the purchase of a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle, are beautifully drawn, as Tory desperately erases every trace of her tracks. She ends up in a bleak rental cabin in Cannon Beach, for which she musters up some sparse furnishings — including some "family photos" Tory buys at an antiques store so she can appear more normal to her landlady.

Tory, an opera buff who has an intuitive sense that her grandmother used to call her "little fey," treasures a glass butterfly paperweight that was handed down to her through the family of Puccini's ill-fated servant. Music lovers will particularly enjoy the Puccini vignettes, with the composer's overbearing and jealous wife bullying the hapless staff, and the innocent servant Doria listening as Puccini dramatically labors over the composition of his opera "The Girl of the Golden West."

Hovering over Tory's story is the menace of the deranged patient, a policewoman who has threatened her life and her son's. Does the patient believe Tory is really dead ... or will she search for her?

The paperweight is Tory's touchstone as she painfully rebuilds her life — and it also figures in the dramatic conclusion of this intriguing and atmospheric novel.

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